cover image The Life

The Life

Carrie Fountain. Penguin, $18 (112p) ISBN 978-0-14-313601-9

The spectacular third book from Fountain (Burn Lake) reveals a young mother’s cluttered life and a glimmering world of faith shaken, stirred, and movingly reaffirmed: “God, sometimes I step/ into this life like stepping into a room// I can’t remember why I entered, and for/ a moment I see nothing—I can see nothing,// I can see it, a space in front of me that is not yet/ filled, that could be filled, and will be filled.” Every poem is a marvel of craft; Fountain displays exquisite judgment, with each image, figure, question, paradox, snippet of overheard conversation, and philosophical meditation finding its perfect place. The effect is quietly exhilarating. Humor and heartbreak intertwine often, finding their counterpoint in revelations about this “inadequate world”: “I want to know/ what is holy—I do. But first I want/ the rat to die,” she says, and later, “Childhood is so/ perfect, the way the rules,/ if unbent, can bear/ the weight of the structure/ and protect the little creatures/ still forming inside it.” Through the alchemy of honest inquiry and clever wordplay (“I pretend sometimes. Other// times, all I do is pretend”), Fountain makes good on the transformative promise of poetry, “making one/ thing become another” in this remarkable work. (Apr.)